(In)definite article and inflection of adjectives

I have noticed that many people have questions about the use of (in)definite articles and the inflection of adjectives. I hope in this post to make a small summary and overview to make it a little easier.

First of all German knows three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter. Then there are four cases, nominative (subject), accusative (object), dative (indirect object), and genitive (possessive case), Lastly, there are two numbers, singular and plural.

1 Definite article:

Male singular: der, den, dem, des

Feminine singular: die, die, der, der

Neuter singular: das, das, dem, des

Plural: die, die, den, der

2 Infdefinite article (negative indefinite article, and possessive determiners are declined the same):

Male singular: ein, einen, einem, eines

Feminine singular: eine, eine, einer, einer

Neuter singular: ein, ein, einem, eines

Plural: eine, eine, einen, einer.

3 Strong inflection adjective (used when no definite article is used or a quantity precedes the adjective):

Male singular: neuer, neuen, neuem, neuen

Feminine singular: neue, neue, neuer, neuer

Neuter, singular: neues, neues, neuem, neuen

Plural: neue, neue, neuen, neuer

4 Mixed inflection (used after indefinite article or possessive determiners):

Male singular: neuer, neuen, neuen, neuen

Feminine singular: neue, neue, neuen, neuen

Neuter singular: neues, neues, neuen, neuen

Plural: neuen, neuen, neuen, neuen

5 Weak inflection (after definite article):

Male singular: neue, neuen, neuen, neuen

Feminine singular: neue, neue, neuen, neuen

Neuter singular: neue, neue, neuen, neuen

Plural: neuen, neuen, neuen, neuen.

For more information you can take a look at the following website: and

September 27, 2013


Learning how to inflect becomes significantly easier once you noticed that the table of strong inflection adjectives is the same as the inflection for definite articles, with just two exceptions: masculine genitive and neuter genitive is das as a definite article but is a -en as strongly inflected adjectives. I call this rule: the first adjective acts like a definite article when the article is missing.

Second, notice that the table for mixed and weak inflection are also quite similar; they're both full of -en in dative, genitive, and plurals. The only differences (neuter and masculine in the nominative and accusative cases) can be easily remembered by noting that with weak inflections, the preceeding article (der/das) have already described the gender of the noun, so the adjective just needs to be -e; while with mixed inflection, the preceeding article (ein) had not described the gender of the noun so the adjective will have to do that, choose either -er for masculine or -es for neuter. And of course, there's the odd one out in both, the masculine accusative is always -en. Also, feminines are redundantly described by both the article and the middle adjectives to distinguish it from plurals. I call this rule: middle adjectives have to describe the gender of the noun when the preceeding article didn't.

Finally, notice that the genitive and dative middle adjectives (mixed and weak inflections) always inflects to -en. Also, the article of the genitive and dative inflect the same whether it's definite or indefinite. I call this rule: datives and genitives doesn't care about being definite or indefinite.

With those three rules, instead of remembering all five tables, you will only need to memorize one and a half tables:

  1. the definite's and indefinite's nominative and accusative,
  2. and their genitive and dative cases, which are the same.

PS: I think there's an error in your table, Strong inflection Masculine Genitive singular should be neuen instead of neues.

September 27, 2013

Thank you for your additional information! And I corrected the mistake:)

September 28, 2013

Thank you Celine1988 and lieryan, these are very helpful posts. This is a lot of information to take in, so it is nice to have it all condensed in one place.

September 28, 2013

We obviously think alike! I posted a similar discussion not too long ago :) Nice work! You posted a lot more than I did, and I think this will be a big help to a lot of people!

September 27, 2013

woops sorry, did not search properly then. :)

September 27, 2013

No, it's totally fine, because yours has a lot more information than mine, so it is still needed! Nice job :)

September 27, 2013
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